The Best of Both Worlds

I’m a huge fan of the OWHL, and of the people who work there. I spent a good part of my summer working full time in the library, and I can say from first hand experience that all of the librarians are sweet, knowledgeable people and the resources that they provide us with are truly top-notch. That being said, I’m not a huge fan of the efforts currently underway to reduce noise levels in the library which, according to recent discussions at All-School Meeting and in the pages of the Phillipian, are out of control. These new measures, such as calling a dean to the library to address a behavioral incident, are short-sighted attempts to stamp out a classic case of adolescent rowdiness with brute force and can only result in student resentment of the administration. The librarians and administration are right to recognize that we have a problem and they are right to try and fix it. However, they are going about solving it in the wrong way—attacking it in one fell swoop, instead of taking baby steps to find a remedy. I do not presume to offer a solution to this complex issue— the problem is too extensive for a panacea. Rather, I propose a few ideas that I hope will reduce the noise level in the library while still providing students a place to relax and hang out together without fear of reprimand. Eliminate Distraction Remove the computers from the lobby of the library. The computers in the lobby need to be removed and replaced with more tables for non-internet related studying. With the temptation of the internet gone, we will lose much of the chatting and laughter that comes from it, thereby giving the Garver Room the chance to actually become a place of silent study. Computers are a magnet for gamers, Facebookers, and Youtubers (in other words, every student on campus) and the more we use the internet for social purposes instead of academic ones, the more likely we are to sit there for an hour with our friends, laughing at replays of Miss Teen South Carolina’s pageant slip-ups without any awareness of how disruptive we are. If we remove these computers, we will still have the PACC, the LLC and the Polk Center and our own laptops. We just won’t have the lure of computers right next to what is supposed to be the quietest room on campus. Reinstate a Social Conference Period Make the library a relaxed hang- out spot during Conference period. In other words, let’s keep the basement silent during Conference while relaxing standards to allow for chatting and socializing upstairs. Few enough people actually study in the library during conference to merit this switch—those who wish to work can go to the basement, while people looking for an indoor spot to catch up with their friends can spend time in the Dole, Freeman, or Garver rooms, talking without fear of reprimand. As this new rule would only apply for 30 minutes at the beginning of the day, the risk of noise from Conference period running out of hand is minimal, considering that most students would need to leave for a 3rd period class and wouldn’t be back in the library until well after the period was over. We would not need signs on the doors listing the Top Ten Things to do During Conference Period (instead of hang out in the library)—the OWHL could instead open those doors to us, recognizing that we students currently have no other place to spend our 30 minutes of free time every morning if we’re not meeting with a teacher. Bring Conference to the Library Institute Faculty proctors during study hours. Teachers could have “Library Duty” instead of Commons Duty or chaperoning at weekend events. Such a trade-off would be a fair one that would greatly contribute to the effort of quieting the library. Because students don’t know the proctors who currently roam the OWHL during study hours, it’s hard to develop respect for them. It’s much easier to dismiss the orders of someone that we simply know as “The Proctor Guy” than it would be to ignore our physics teacher telling us to quiet down. Our teachers know how to relate to us far better than any of our current proctors ever could, because they spend time with us in the classroom every day, live in dorms with us and coach us on the playing fields. In turn, we respect them because we know them so well from interactions in these same situations. This mutual respect would help to resolve the tensions between students and library staff and would also serve the general purpose of quieting the library. I’m not saying that we should get rid of the proctors who currently work there—rather, we should bolster their efforts with the help of faculty members during study hours. The library problem is one that cannot be solved with heavy-handed rules and continued animosity between students, library staff and the administration. If we’re going to get anywhere, it will require compromise and a willingness on all sides to move slowly for the sake of preserving good relations between students, librarians, and the administration. The three ideas I’ve presented above could, if implemented, take the first step towards reasserting the library’s presence on campus as an educational resource while keeping its atmosphere relaxed enough for students to feel at home while we’re there. It’s in everyone’s best interests to find that happy medium.